Oil Painting: The Bathers by Gustave Courbet, 1853. Location: Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Size of the original painting: 89″ x 76″ (227 cm x 193 cm)Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement (characterized by the paintings of Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix), with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social commentary in his work. ” I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: ‘He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty. Courbet painted figurative compositions, landscapes, seascapes, and still-lifes. He courted controversy by addressing social issues in his work, and by painting subjects that were considered vulgar, such as the rural bourgeoisie, peasants, and working conditions of the poor. His work belonged neither to the predominant Romantic nor Neoclassical schools. History painting, which the Paris Salon esteemed as a painter’s highest calling, did not interest Courbet, who stated that “the artists of one century [are] basically incapable of reproducing the aspect of a past or future century …” Instead, he believed that the only possible source for a living art is the artist’s own experience. His work, along with the work of Honoré Daumier and Jean-François Millet, became known as Realism. For Courbet realism dealt not with the perfection of line and form, but entailed spontaneous and rough handling of paint, suggesting direct observation by the artist while portraying the irregularities in nature. He depicted the harshness in life, and in so doing challenged contemporary academic ideas of art.